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Dec 21, 2010

Welcome, Singer 15-90! or "Out with the Old, In with the Older"

Friends, Monday was a very exciting day here at MPB headquarters.  As if guided by the spirit of I.M. Singer himself, I was able both to sell my Singer Spartan (my seventh sewing machine sale since I started decluttering earlier this month) and hours later to receive my Singer 15-90, courtesy of UPS.

Close readers will remember my intention of selling my beloved 3/4 Spartan (also known as the 192K) last week, when I decided that, cute and reliable as she was, I wanted something stronger, and a machine I could put in my treadle table in place of my 1920 Singer 66 -- a fantastic machine but one that lacks the ability to reverse mid-stitch and a less-than-ideal stitch length knob (you turn it like a screw, which means no way to identify stitch length without actually stitching).

I am sworn to secrecy about the purchaser of this machine as she is a well-known celebrity in certain parts of the world or so she claims and has escaped to Brooklyn to lead a normal life or as normal a life as one can lead in Brooklyn.  The timing couldn't have been better as I knew my 15-90 was already out for delivery.

The beauty of a transaction like the Spartan sale is that I didn't have to box anything -- Celebrity X carried the Spartan off in a doubled Whole Foods shopping bag.  The box I received was one of the most meticulous packing jobs I've seen and I've seen many. 

Friends, there was enough tape, plastic wrap, styrofoam and cardboard in this package to mount an entire junior high school class science fair.  It did leave me feeling a little guilty about carbon footprints but at least the machine itself is second-hand and the packaging went to the recycling bin in our apartment building.


To my delight, this machine is in excellent shape, clearly having been spruced up of late.  Despite dating back to 1949 (March 4 to be exact), the wire and plugs are all new and clean, as is the bobbin winding tire and the belt.  (My Spartan dated from the early 60s, btw; my 15-91 from 1952.)

The only flaw, if you can consider it a flaw, is that it came loaded with a class 66 bobbin instead of a class 15.  Which is funny, because when I purchased my drop-in bobbin Singer Spartan more than a year ago, it came with a class 15 instead of a class 66!  I think a lot of people can't tell the difference and wonder why their stitching looks off.

That's the 66 on the left, the taller 15 on the right.

First stitches were perfect right out of the box.  The only difference between this model and the 15-91 is the belt-driven external motor on the 15-90 as opposed to the gear-driven "potted" motor on the 15-91.

The 15-91, which cannot be converted to a treadle:

The plan, as mentioned above, is to remove the motor (which I guess means removing her gorgeous lamp too, alas) and treadle with her.  Maybe I'll install some of her wires in my old 15-91 (her lamp in particular -- much better shape).

I am so happy I had this distraction from sewing conflict, not to mention lower back pain no doubt brought on by Yuletide turmoil.  It's so good to know that others are in turmoil too, if not actual back pain.

Oh, and speaking of leopard-print pants, the leopard panted guy -- unknown to me, who stopped following celebrities after Keir Dullea (so moving in Madame X) -- is a young actor named Garrett Hedlund, currently starring in Tron: Legacy. 

He's no Troy Donahue but he does wear leopard well.  Kudos to his publicist for this coup.

Friends, we're out of time.  There's much to do here, including some leopard laundering, if I'm up to it.  No tote bags today (if ever).

Have a great day, everybody!

(Farewell, Spartan!)


  1. Wow, another vintage sewing machine...
    This new Singer of yours looks a lot like one I have. Mine used to belong to my grandmother, who bought it new after getting married and her own household. She used until about 3 years ago. It has the same motor, but my mother claims it used to be a hand-crank machine and was converted to electricity later. Which may be why it doesn't have a lamp.
    However, it, and a hand-crank Pfaff from my other grandmother (both on display in the living room. I've never actually sewn with these machines and I don't really trust the wiring on that Singer), uses a very different kind of bobbin. Those bobbins look like small, thin brass spools.

  2. That sounds like a shuttle bobbin. There was a hand-crank version of this machine, the 15-89.

  3. Actual treadle sewing, how fun! I have a Singer 66 (at my mother's house, anyway) and you're right that it's not as versatile, though I do love that it's from 1914.

  4. Peter, that was much better packed than the last machine I had delivered. Anyway, you should be able to leave the light on the 15-90, but direct wire it, instead of running it through the machine plug. There should be a repair manual on the internet that would show how to wire this to a "male" wall plug instead of a "female" plug that plugs into the side of the machine. Just thinkin' about your eyes, hun. Lane

  5. Hi Peter!
    I really love the subjects you bring here to the MPB! The "sewing conflict" is known to everyone who sews, I guess! I have several projects waiting for my mood to be finished or started...
    The guy in leopard pants looks goood, and I like the refreshing combination with a white T-shirt, instead of the old black.
    Peter, I have too many sewing machines, but because of you, I am looking for a treadle!!! You are horrible! :) I am not in a hurry, though, but whenever I see a Singer 15-88 to be sold in the neighbourhood, I think I will not resist! I love strong machines and, by the way, I have a Singer 185K, which is also a 3/4, like the Spartan, but sews greatly very thick layers! I love it and recommend it if you decide to have a 3/4 again! Over there you have the 185J, in cute and funky green, unfortunately not found here in Europe.

    Happy holidays!

    (from Germany)

  6. Please don't say tote bags and leopardskin in the same blog post. Please don't lose your nerve!


  7. I always tell bobbins apart by the number of holes on the walls.

    Also, those little brass spool bobbins are not all the same either; I accidently bought some New Home ones that do not fit my Singer, they're a good two or three millimeters too long.

    I love treadling, I feel so much more in control with my feet, you can go very slowly.

    Completely off topic, I've been trying to find info on my Brother Charger 441 Zig Zag machine. There seems to be very little out there. Anyone have a good place to go look?

  8. Did that meticulously packed machine come from my mom? She's crazy like that, too.

    You sound like the machine aficionados I work with- they can tell what's wrong with a machine (with astonishing accuracy) by listening to it sew. It's something like the baristas who heat milk to perfection by listening to it.

  9. I wish I had that expertise, Steph, and now I'm craving coffee! ;)

    Treadle27, what is it you need to find out about the Charger? Someone reviewed a Brother Charger on Pattern Review, but a different model.

  10. Haven't been able to log in for a few days, but wanted to tell you that your coat below is fabulous. When I saw the pic, I involuntarily thought that it was RTW, and then I remembered that this is your sewing blog. It's truly a wonderful coat. Congrats!

  11. Love coming here to learn a little more- and for a good laugh too. Now that really is a sexy looking machine!


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